Weather Forecast


Ruby’s Pantry comes to Perham

Ruby’s Pantry will be making regular stops in Perham starting next Saturday, giving people a new, affordable food option.

This non-profit corporation, which markets itself as “America’s rural food bank,” works with local churches, food shelves and civic groups to offer corporate surplus foods to people in need.

The new distribution point in Perham will be one of about 40 such locations in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Last year, Ruby’s Pantry distributed more than 9 million pounds of food to more than 100,000 families at these locations.

Distribution will take place in Perham the fourth Saturday of every month, at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church and School, from 10 a.m. to about 11:30 a.m.

The first distribution is scheduled for Saturday, May 25.

Here’s how it works: in ex participants receive one share in the distribution, which entitles them to a variety of food for that month. There is no income requirement for participating, and those who don’t have the $15 won’t be turned away.

Three dollars of each $15 donation go toward good causes in the community; the remaining $12 supports Ruby’s Pantry and its system of distribution trucks, warehouses and other related expenses.

Ruby’s Pantry considers itself “a hand up, not a hand out,” according to its website, Often, families leave with more than $100 worth of groceries for their $15 donation. Participants are asked to bring two large boxes or laundry baskets to hold their food.

St. Paul’s has offered the use of its facility at no charge, and donations have been received from local businesses and service organizations to help get the program going. Major donors so far include KLN, Arvig, Dean’s County Market, Service Food and the Dent Lions Club.

Dave Pawlowski, chairman of the local steering committee for Ruby’s Pantry, said he and his wife got the idea to bring the program to Perham after seeing how beneficial it was to people in other parts of the state. The Pawlowskis are friends with a couple who established a Ruby’s Pantry in Menahga and they started volunteering there. They saw that some people had to travel long distances to participate in the program – one woman drove a van from Pelican Rapids every month to bring food back for eight separate families.

“Once we saw the need over there, we thought there must be need over here, too,” said Pawlowski.

An active member of St. Paul’s Church, Pawlowski realized that the facility would be an ideal place to host Ruby’s Pantry. He approached the congregation for their permission, “which they graciously granted.”

The Ruby’s Pantry organization got its start as a community outreach of Home and Away Ministries, which was founded in 2003 by Pastor Lyn Sahr, who had previously founded the Independent Pine City Community Church in Pine City, Minn., in 2002. Home and Away Ministries is an evangelical Christian organization that is not affiliated with any denomination.

Food offered through Ruby’s Pantry is corporate surplus — food that gets mislabeled, for example, or replaced with a new product. Ruby’s Pantry has arrangements with producers to receive this surplus.

All the Ruby’s Pantry food distributed in Perham will come from the organization’s larger distribution center in North Branch, Minn.

Excess food left at the end of a distribution day will be given to the Perham Food Shelf, and the $3 portion of every $15 donation will go back to the local community, for use in crisis situations. Ruby’s Pantry leaders will work closely with civic groups and nonprofit agencies to provide funding to local people in their times of greatest need.

“We want to be plugged into the community,” Pawlowski said. “We’re hoping to serve a 30-mile radius around Perham.”

Pawlowski said a typical distribution in town will take the help of about 45 volunteers, who will carry food to cars, get people registered, and greet and converse with participants. Interested volunteers may simply show up on distribution day at about 8 a.m.

For more information, email

Marie Johnson

Marie Johnson joined the Detroit Lakes Tribune as a reporter and magazine editor in November 2017 after several years of writing and editing at the Perham Focus. She lives in Detroit Lakes with her husband, Dan, their 4-year-old son and toddler daughter, and their yellow Lab.

(218) 844-1452